The second most powerful Tory...
is Davie Fuiton, the experts agree, at forty-one justice minister, one of the Commons’ keenest minds and a cabinet Jack-of-all-trades. Even the Liberals show him grudging respect—but he’s a worry to some Tories
PETER C. NEWMAN
There are as many opinions on the effectiveness of the Diefenbaker cabinet as there are political pundits in Ottawa. But on one point there is amazing agreement: its ablest politician and currently the leading candidate to succeed Diefenbaker as the head of a Conservative government is Edmund Davie Fulton, a former Rhodes Scholar and infantry company commander from Kamloops, B.C., who relaxes by shooting prairie chicken and listening to recordings of Puccini operas played at full volume.
Already, forty - one - year - old Fulton has reached a higher position for his age than any Canadian politician since Mackenzie King. While three Conservative cabinet ministers have been given no departmental responsibilities, Fuiton is Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney-General and Acting Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; for nearly a month he was
Acting Secretary of State for External Affairs.
Many politicians compare Fulton's power in the PC cabinet to that of C. D. Howe under Louis St. Laurent, with two important differences. Howe didn’t want to become prime minister. Fulton does. Howe was St. Laurent’s contemporary. Fulton is twenty-one years younger than Diefenbaker, although he entered the House of Commons in 1945, just one election behind Diefenbaker’s federal debut. “I don't believe that cither Fulton or those who know him expect him to end up as anything less than prime minister of Canada,” says Bert Lawrence, an influential Ottawa PC lawyer.
Fulton feels a real joy in politics and believes he is fated to influence beneficially the course of Canadian history.
He has a natural dignity without reaching for it. His pompadour of rusty hair and an oversize
jaw, which he dips for emphasis, transpose his otherwise academic appearance into that of a proud but hungry bull moose scenting nourishment. He’s six feet tall and speaks with a snipped Oxford accent, pronouncing “clerk" as “dark” but, oddly, discarding the characteristic “rawtha” for the C anadian “rather." When he's nervous he blinks and puffs Player's.
At work he has the authoritative manner of a man running his affairs, rather than being run by them. He soon becomes “Davie” to most office visitors—it’s his mother’s family name, not a corruption of David.
In the House of Commons he ranges between monotonous persistence and some of the rudest interjections ever recorded in Hansard. “By quite a wide margin, Fulton is the most intelligent Tory in the House and much the best debater,” says a former
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Liberal cabinet minister who often tangles with him.
In and out of parliament Fulton has trouble muzzling his emotions. Soon after last summer’s election he went for a day to the Canadian Bar Association’s annual convention at Banff. He tiptoed into the opening session and sat down at the back of the hall. The meeting’s chairman asked him to come up and say a few words. When Fulton reached the rostrum the thousand lawyers in the room spontaneously stood up and cheered him. For minutes no sound came over the microphone. Canada’s brand-new minister of justice was weeping so uncontrollably that he could do nothing but nod.
The most moving moment of his life, Fulton claims, was at 11 a.m. last June 21. when he signed the Oath of Office Book after being sworn into the Privy Council. “It was a great thrill,” he says. “The volume’s first signature is that of Sir John A. Macdonald.” That afternoon he took a taxi to the Justice Department and began reading the accumulated mail.
Fulton's critics claim he’s not qualified to sit in the justice office. They point out that he has practiced law for only a few months at a time between House sittings, has appeared in court less than a dozen times, and received his appointment as Queen's Counsel only nine days after becoming minister of justice. Others insist that his vitality and strength of character will make him known as one of the ablest justice ministers in Canadian history.
In his twin-hat parliamentary capacity Fulton is responsible for Canada's internal security, the drafting of all government legislation, and this country’s immigration policies. Among other things, he reports to the House for the RCMP. the National Film Board, the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, the Indian Affairs Branch, the National Gallery, the Penitentiaries Branch, judges and federal litigation and remissions.
During Diefenbaker’s frequent absences from Ottawa and before Sidney Smith's appointment to the post, Fulton was also Acting Secretary of Stale for External Affairs. This was a lunch-hour chore. He approved treaties placing
B. C.’s $15-million-a-year pink-salmon catch under the authority of the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission, and a document making Canada a member of President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace plan — the first international pacts signed by the Conservative government.
While Diefenbaker was in London, some Russian scientists applied for permission to visit Cyrus Eaton’s “home for thinkers” at Pugwash, N.S. External Affairs was concerned because the request had come from the U.S.S.R. Embassy. Justice was worried about the security aspects. Immigration wanted to know if it could issue the necessary visas.
Ordinarily, the decision would be made by a committee of the three ministers. But they all happened to be Fulton. He finally decided the only fair solution was to refer the question to the rest of the cabinet, who approved the Russians’ entry.
In spite of his partisan loyalties, Fulton maintains the impression of being more interested in political science than party politics. Last spring he astonished an Empire Club luncheon in Toronto by illustrating his points in a lecturelike speech on the proper functions of parliament with quotes entirely from Liberal politicians. “I went into politics very seriously,” he says, “not in any crusading manner, but with a feeling that certain basic philosophies are good for this country.” His conviction that when enlightened policies do not fit the PC platform the platform must be altered, inevitably stirs up an angry huff among old-line Tories inside party caucus.
Because he is recognized as the PCs’ chief oracle on parliamentary rules, Fulton is continually being stopped along the corridors by fledgling MPs for consultation on the intricacies of House behavior. Confidence in their tutor would suffer if they had witnessed Fulton’s own first parliamentary moments.
An MP’s House of Commons debut is a mutual truce by tradition. The novice talks uncontroversially about his constituency; the opposite benches allow him to proceed unchallenged. In 1945, during his first week in parliament, Fulton asked
Mackenzie King a question that should have been given to the Clerk of the House for inclusion in the order paper. King, furious, lectured Fulton on proper House procedure.
“I was pretty nervous and I thought I had made a hideous blunder,” recalls Fulton. “Then I began feeling irritated.” On the afternoon of the same day, Fulton became the first English-speaking Conservative MP to give part of his maiden speech in French. He hardly mentioned Kamloops, but he attacked King’s policies with such vigor that he was interrupted eleven times by three angry Liberal cabinet ministers. King was so impressed that he leaned over to his seat mate Ian Mackenzie, then minister of veterans’ affairs, and whispered, “That young man will lead the Tories someday.” During his first three-month session, Fulton spoke forty-two times — an unprecedented record for a new member. The Liberal back-benchers nicknamed him Buttercup, because he had a yellow top and kept popping up all the time, and jeered whenever the brash young man from Kamloops, who dressed as if he were still at Oxford, stood up to speak. (In those days Fulton spent many of his off hours at Ottawa playing polo and throwing darts in a back-bencher’s parliamentary office. He wore high starched collars and always had a handkerchief flopping out of his left sleeve.)
He lectured the House on Canada’s blueberry problem. He complained bitterly about the excise tax on imported fire engines, the methods being used to dispose of secondhand army slippers and the payment of copyright dues for band concerts at agricultural fairs. He attacked the variety of memo-paper pads used by the civil service and the imports of Malayan throwing daggers for police exhibitions. He even tangled with Jean-François Pouliot. the Liberals’ most practiced acrobat of parliament repartee:
POULIOT: I will ask Kamloops to keep quiet until I look after him. FULTON: Talk sense and I’ll keep quiet. POULIOT: Quack, quack, quack. FULTON: That’s just what you sound like.
The Liberals’ most crushing attack on Fulton came from Jimmy Sinclair, a fellow Rhodes Scholar who later became minister of fisheries. He told the House that the member for Kamloops, with the arrogance of youth and the assurance that comes from membership in the Oxford Union, pontificated in lordly fashion over all public issues. The PC benches applauded the insult as hard as the I iberals. Tory Whip L. F. Cardiff later privately thanked Sinclair for his temporary silencing of Fulton.
Sinclair and Fulton used to spend many after-session evenings in their offices, loudly debating the merits of their rival political parties. One night at 2 a.m. Fulton’s temper exploded. He emphasized a particularly telling point by punching the tip of his umbrella through the glass panel of Sinclair’s door. When Sinclair's secretary saw the bulletlike hole next morning, she ran to the nearest commissionaire and blurted out, “Davie Fulton has finally shot Mr. Sinclair.”
Some of Fulton's early parliamentary battles had strange roots. In 1953, when his wife's third pregnancy produced an aversion to the odor of frying bacon. Fulton agreed to cook breakfast. He found that the bacon, wrapped in redlined Cellophane, contained far more fat than would appear from its package. Fulton, who likes lean bacon, got so mad that during an after-breakfast sitting of the House one day he introduced a change in the Food and Drugs Act. This, plus pressure from the Canadian Association of Consumers, eventually forced packers to use unlined, transparent packaging.
He became one of the few MPs in Canadian history to push through an amendment of a major statute while in opposition. In 1949 he succeeded in having section 207 of the Criminal Code altered to ban crime comics. During his two-year battle to have the law changed he jolted dozing back-benchers by reading into Hansard Green Hornet episodes and a comic strip called Undressed to Kill.
Hundreds of mothers wrote Fulton, praising his law. But recently his wife exposed a family secret. “Contrary to public opinion,” she admitted, “Davie reads the funny papers.” Pogo is his favorite.
Early in 1956, when the pipeline debate might have ended as an unpopular fillibuster, Fuiton was the first Conservative to distill the fight into a constitutional issue. He became his party’s chief House strategist. Fulton argued about the shades of dictionary word definitions, questioned House rules which had always been taken for granted and was on hi feet, shouting at the Liberals, before hichief George Drew had a chance to rise.
During the frenzied debate Fulton was leafing through a Commons copy of Arthur Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms when he found a sheet of notepaper on which was copied, from the book’s sample text, the draft motion stating, “that E. D. Fulton, member from Kamloops, be suspended from the service of the House . . . for the remainder of the present sitting.” The motion had been copied out by some Liberal opponent but was never introduced because Donald Fleming’s expulsion in the midst of the pipeline controversy became a political asset for the Conservatives.
The note is now framed in Fulton’s parliamentary office. Near it hangs the picture of a covey of partridge breaking out of the brush near Kamloops.
Gliding through the rock-and-lakestrewn Caribou country, hunting Prairie chicken, pheasant, partridge and ducks with Carri, his Labrador retriever, is Ful-
tor's favorite holiday. He also likes to cast for trout around his summer cottage at Lac Le Jeune, near Kamloops. Last summer the English novelist Graham Greene and his daughter Lucy were his guests for a long week end. Fulton enjo\ed the conversation, but his Kamloopsian pride was strained by Greene’s th¿nk-you gesture. It arrived a few weeks later in the form of his latest book, inscribed, "With thanks for an enjoyable visit in Calgary.”
The Fultons’ four-bedroom frame house in the west end of Kamloops contains many mementos of the family’s long political tradition. Fulton’s grandfather was B. C.’s eighth premier, his great uncle its tenth and later the province’s chief justice. An uncle was speaker of the B. C. legislature from 1931 to 1933. Fred J. Fulton, Davie's father, served as attorney-general and minister of lands and works in B. C.’s McBride administration near the turn of the century and was elected federal MP for Caribou in 1917. His mother, now seventyseven, reads every issue of Hansard and wfen in Ottawa daily attends the House of Commons gallery to watch her Davie in action. "I don’t think he has changed at all,” she says, "but perhaps he has learned a little patience.”
She remembers that Fulton startled an inquisitive baby-sitter when he was ten. bv declaring, "I think that 1 shall go into public life.” He attended St. Michael’s, at Victoria, with K. W. Symons, now the pi-vate school's headmaster. “Davie," Symons recalls, “was a round-faced, redheaded little chap — quiet and fairly bright." He once handed in his historyhomework on some of his father’s old House of Commons letterheads. "I'll be there one day,” he told the teacher.
Fulton took a general arts degree at the University of British Columbia, where he rowed, played Britannicus in G. B. Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra and in 1936 won a Rhodes Scholarship. After studying law at Oxford's St. John's College he joined his father’s legal firm in Kamloops a few months before resigning to enlist in the Seaforth Highlanders. He went overseas in October 1940, commanded an infantry company in the Italian fighting, and later he was deputy assistant adjutant-general of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division.
In October 1944, Fulton got a letter from Dr. Charles Willoughby, an executive of the Kamloops Progressive Conservative Association. “Some of us here have been wondering if you would be prepared to consider accepting the PC nomination in the next federal election," Willoughby wrote. The letter’s last paragraph was; "We hope you won't mind, but as a matter of fact, we nominated you at a meeting last night."
Twenty-eight days before the election Fulton flew home and set up campaign headquarters at Mrs. Roberts’ Beauty Parlor. The seat had been held since its creation in 1935 by Liberal T. J. (Tip) O'Neill, an Irish locomotive driver, who had well-organized support in the predominantly labor riding.
Fulton campaigned in his kilt. He square-danced at every Elk Hall in the constituency and damned the Liberals' manpower policies. He credits a ghost with his win. On election night he was consistently trailing O'Neill by about three hundred votes. The only unreported polling station was Salmon Arm, home of the late Rolf Bruhn, once a popular provincial Conservative cabinet minister. A solid sweep of Salmon Arm gave him a final majority of a hundred and seventy-seven votes. “Bruhn's ghost walked that night," says Fulton.
In the 1949 election his margin over
O'Neill increased to 1,283 votes. In 1953 all other candidates lost their deposits. Four candidates ran in last summer's election; 10,029 of the 21,381 votes cast were for Fulton. The Kamloops riding is twice the size of Nova Scotia, stretching from the Alberta border to the Pacific. Its five provincial seats and four of the eight surrounding federal constituencies are held by the Social Credit.
Fulton campaigns the isolated Caribou lake communities north of Kamloops in a green tartan sport shirt, from a rented seaplane. To stimulate votes in the lake
communities, he rides a speedboat around Anderson Lake. For the railway ballots, he hops the caboose of freights running into the Blue River country. At Bralorne he wiggles into a rubber mucker’s suit to chat underground with the gold miners. He reports on his Ottawa activities by cutting a record every week for the Kamloops radio station and writes newsletters to the six local weekly papers.
During last fall's royal visit to Ottawa he had Kamloops trout flown to Rideau Hall for the Queen's breakfast. Her wellbriefed Majesty thanked him when she
was introduced to members of the cabinet.
Fulton has little time for diplomatic functions. He leaves his comfortable second-story Ottawa fiat overlooking The Driveway every morning at 7.50 a.m.. drives his 1954 cream Buick to the Justice Building and divides the next eleven to fifteen hours between the affairs of justice, immigration and parliament. He usually comes home for a supper break, enlivened by his reading—in the tones of a major dissertation—The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a fairy tale, to Cynthia Ann, the youngest of his three
daughters. “Davie is a most satisfactory husband,” says Pat, his pretty wife. “Politics is important to him, but we never get the feeling that the rest of us arc not.”
Davie met his wife at the University of British Columbia. They were married in 1946 and became a political team the same year when he toured Canada with her as national president of the Young Progressive Conservative Association. As head of the association for the next three years he crossed the country fifteen times and became popular among party workers who are now reaching the prime of their political activity. At their urging he became a candidate at the 1956 Conservative leadership convention.
Fulton had initial signs of interest from more than four hundred convention delegates and support was developing fast enough to give him a chance of assembling the six hundred necessary votes for victory. But when Quebec delegates swung decisively behind Donald Fleming. many of Fulton's backers with overpowering anti-Fleming feelings rallied behind Diefenbaker as a surer candidate to defeat Fleming. When the ballots were counted, Fulton with a hundred and seventeen votes had run second to Diefenbaker outside Quebec and second to Fleming in Quebec.
Quebec’s support of Fleming, a thirtythird-degree Mason, over Fulton is a paradox of Canadian politics. Fulton studied French at Oxford and spent months improving it when stationed beside a Free French army base in North
Africa during the war. He spoke good French when first elected and has since improved it through private tutoring at Ottawa's Institut Jeanne D’Arc. Born a Roman Catholic, Fulton is an active lay member of Ottawa’s St. Theresa’s parish. Two of his daughters attend a French convent.
These apparent qualifications for French-Canadian popularity, however, are offset by Fulton’s immutable attitude toward conscription. He is the only Tory MP who has publicly and repeatedly condemned the Liberals for not instituting compulsory call-ups at the outbreak of the Korean War. He even urged World War II veterans not to volunteer so that the government would be forced to legislate conscription. “It made me mad.” he
says. “It’s absolutely wrong that people should be called upon to bear unequal burdens.” Quebec’s attitude is not a handicap likely to become a permanent burden to Fulton’s political future. The nationalistic Le Devoir recently editorialized: “Fulton speaks excellent French. He is a symbol of the rights of parliament. It is possible that he will one day become Canada’s prime minister.” Diefenbaker and Fulton are close friends in spite of their leadership rivalry. During the last two elections Fulton has gone to Prince Albert, Sask., to deliver Diefenbaker’s hometown French speeches. He was the only MP who flew to Prince Albert and helped Diefenbaker immediately after the first Mrs. Diefenbaker’s death. “I am enormously attract-
ed to John’s personality and standards,” says Fulton.
When the Progressive Conservatives were forming their cabinet last summer, Diefenbaker asked Fulton to become Speaker in the House of Commons, with the possibility that it might become a permanent office. Fulton refused. The job would have meant political suicide. He was also mentioned for the External Affairs post, but Justice was the portfolio he really wanted. He flew back to Kamloops and waited for five days before the prime minister called to confirm his appointment. Since the PC government took office Fulton has become one of Diefenbaker’s chief House lieutenants. “Davie is an outstanding debater,” says Diefenbaker. "He has a great knowledge of the rules and functions of parliament.”
Fulton rarely speculates about his future. But recently, sitting behind the walnut desk of his squash-court-size justice office, he said, “When you are first elected, you’re content to be a backbencher. But if you do a good job and people become conscious of you doing a good job, you gain recognition and wonder what you’ll be next. You move to an opposition front bench and when there’s a change of government, you’re named a cabinet minister.”
Then, gazing through one of his office’s seven windows at the Peace Tower, Fulton mused about his destiny: “And if you’re a good cabinet minister, you have at the back of your mind that one day the prime ministership will come within your reach.” ir